Gearing up for the 2019 hurricane season that began June 1, experts say people who live on the North Shore of Oahu should have a 14-to-21 day supply of food, water and basic necessities like prescriptions, personal hygiene products and anything they would need to be self-sufficient for as long as possible when a disaster happens. They added some kind of disaster - be it hurricane, tsunami, flood, earthquake or fire - will happen at some point.
“It’s not if it will hit, but when it will hit,” said Elder Paul Crookston, who is completing his missionary service at the Polynesian Cultural Center. He is an engineer and has experience in disaster management. “We are not trying to plant fear,” he added. “We want you to be prepared.”
With only one road, Kamehameha Highway, linking the North Shore area to Honolulu, when a disaster strikes, local emergency officials said state and county resources will be focused on where the biggest population of people are in Honolulu and getting ports, airports and hospitals up and running again.
Local leaders said being able to care of yourself and your family will be necessary on the North Shore, and by being personally prepared, it is also easier to help your neighbors. “We want to help each other get personally prepared so we can help others too,” said Elder Crookston, and “do what the Savior would do.”
Meeting in the Heber J. Grant Building on May 8, officials from BYU–Hawaii, the PCC, Hawaii Reserves Inc., the local Church stake presidents, local emergency officials and more gathered to discuss how well the existing local disaster plan worked when Hurricane Lane threatened to strike Oahu just one year ago in August of 2018. While officials said the local disaster plan worked well for Hurricane Lane, they will continue to work to improve it.
One of the major items discussed was the need for people who are trained as ham or amateur radio operators because it is likely phone lines will be down and satellite phones overwhelmed, therefore radio will be the best way to communicate and share information.
Officials also stressed families and friends select someone outside of Hawaii people can call to check in and find out if their loved ones are okay. They said families should also make plans about where to meet after a disaster if they are split up because not knowing what happened to family and friends makes a disaster even worse.
Leading the discussion was Elder Crookston. While he stressed personal preparation, he said it is important to look out for the elderly and people with special needs. Even though last year Hurricane Lane didn’t make landfall in the Hawaiian Islands, as it churned across the Pacific Ocean it dropped more than 50 inches of rain on the Big Island damaging more than 150 homes, plus schools, businesses, and infrastructure costing more than $100 million to repair, reported Hawaii News Now.
Firefighters rescued at least 39 people from rising floodwaters and torrential rains overwhelmed three sewage pump stations sending more than 9 million gallons of sewage in Hilo Bay, says HNN.
On Maui, the high winds whipped three wildfires that spread quickly causing 300 people to evacuate and destroying more than 20 homes, reported HNN. Combined with 16 inches of rain on Maui, more than 45 utility poles needed to be replaced and roads were washed out by storm water and debris.
On Kauai, says HNN, one person reportedly died after jumping into a rain-swollen river to save a dog, and areas hit hard last April by historic flooding were again flooded by the deep tropical moisture left behind by Hurricane Lane. The Chicago Tribune reported Hurricane Lane was the No. 3 rainmaker from a tropical cyclone in the United States since 1950.
Elder Crookston said while Oahu was spared last year, hurricanes have struck the island in the past and likely will at some point in the future. Some of the hurricanes that have struck the Hawaiian Islands include:
• Hurricane Nina – 1957 – It was a category 1 hurricane with winds and rains that caused damage on Kauai and Oahu even though it did not actually hit land.
• Hurricane Dot – 1959 – This was a category 4 hurricane that dropped to a category 1 as it passed over Kauai. The storm caused minor damage to Hawaii, Oahu and Kauai.
• Hurricane Iwa – 1982 – This category 1 hurricane caused the most damage on the Big Island but also Kauai at the cost of $250 million and caused one death. Oahu also suffered some damage.
• Hurricane Iniki – 1992 – This category 4 hurricane that arrived on Sept. 11 was the most devastating one to hit Hawaii, reports HNN. It came during an El Nino year when the Pacific Ocean water temperatures are higher than normal and wind shear lower. Weather forecasters said on May 22 that 2019 is another El Nino year and predict five-to-eight tropical storms will pass by Hawaii between June 1 and Nov. 1. Hurricane Iniki had winds of 140 miles per hour, “killed six people and damaged more than 1,400 homes and 5,000 utility poles. Twenty-two years later, Iniki remains one of the costliest hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific, causing nearly $2 billion in damage,” says HNN.
Just after Hurricane Lane passed by the Hawaiian Islands last August, Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria on Sept. 20 causing more than $100 billion in damage and claiming in the end more than 3,000 people’s lives. Elder Crookston said most people died due to infection.
While hurricane-strength winds and rains can cause devastating damage, said Elder Crookston, the greatest damage and loss of life generally comes from ocean storm surge. “Tidal surge is the deadliest part of a hurricane statistically. It pushes debris on land, and they become battering rams” crushing everything is in its path, he said.
BYUH officials said students also need to be prepared personally for up to 21 days including personal items, prescriptions and more. Food Services Director David Keala said the university has supplies on hand for two limited-calorie meals a day for all students for up to seven days. However, officials advise students to prepare themselves by putting together their own supplies.